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The Supreme Court is Asked To Confirm That Recording Cops Has First Amendment Protections

If you’re tired of censorship and surveillance, join Reclaim The Net.

In a battle for the sanctity of the First Amendment, the Supreme Court is once again being petitioned to affirm that recording police officers while they perform public duties is a constitutional right, one that directly opposes censorship and forges the path for accountability. Despite the digital age having turned everyone into potential citizen journalists, there seems to be an unsavory trend among law enforcement to suppress this fundamental form of free speech. This bitter resistance is especially odd when we consider that police officers themselves have been known to argue that there exists no expectation of privacy in public spaces.

Related: Philadelphia Cops Fired Over Social Media Posts Can Proceed With First Amendment Lawsuit, Appeals Court Rules

The silence of the Supreme Court on passing a defining ruling on this palpable First Amendment issue has added to the confusion. The judiciary’s failure to address this concern headways until now is concerning as we find ourselves amid a fierce debate on censorship, free speech, and the public’s right to know.

Now, the Supreme Court is being gifted a chance, once again, to set a nationwide precedent that could potentially resolve this dispute. The test case revolves around Dijon Sharpe and his battle against Winterville’s police department. The core of the issue dates back to a 2014 traffic stop where Sharpe, a passenger in the car, was threatened with arrest for attempting to livestream the police officers on duty on Facebook Live, thought to be a clear violation of his First Amendment rights.

We obtained a copy of the brief for you here.

Even after the Fourth Circuit Appeals Court established precedent by declaring the act of recording police officers falls under First Amendment protection, the officers involved were granted immunity, further complicating the situation. This led to a national appeal with a plea for this case’s reversal.

The Institute for Justice took the debate a step further. It did not simply go after the revocation of immunity but insisted the Supreme Court clarify the constitutional protection of filming police officers. The plea tried to drive home the principle that the First Amendment was steadfast in its protection of the right to document police activities in public, irrespective of the medium or the identity of the person making the recording.

Given the Supreme Court’s track record in awarding qualified immunity to officers, the effectiveness of such an appeal remains to be measured. But the urgency and relevance of this issue have run its course and the Supreme Court must take up its role and assert an obvious principle that many courts have already acknowledged – that recording law enforcement is a constitutional right protected by the First Amendment, as much as any other form of free speech.

If you’re tired of censorship and surveillance, join Reclaim The Net.

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